Kori Rainwater scored a career-high 17 points in her first start and helped Tahlequah to a 55-47 road win over Coweta Tuesday.
Rainwater, a freshman forward, also pulled down 12 rebounds and recorded three blocked shots. She scored 12 of her points in the second half and went 9 of 14 from the free throw line.
"[Kori] had a big night for us," Tahlequah head coach David Qualls said. "She was aggressive and did a good job inside for us. She got to the free throw line 14 times. She did a good job in her first career start."
The win moves the third-ranked Lady Tigers to 5-1 overall. They stay unbeaten in Metro Lakes Conference play at 3-0.
It was Tahlequah's first game since the close of the Tahlequah Invitational on Dec. 12, and the first road contest since opening the season at Skiatook on Dec. 1.
"The first game back always...as a coach you look at the schedule and see who you play after the break because usually you're off for two or three weeks," Qualls said. "We had a tough one tonight against a Coweta team that has nine seniors and who's been to the state tournament the last three years. They've got a lot of girls that have played some big minutes in March, so it was good to come here and get a win."
Seventh-ranked Coweta, led by Alexxia Mercer's game-high 18 points, falls to 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the conference.
Tahlequah limited Coweta's top scorer, senior Linda Brice, to just three field goals. Brice entered the contest averaging over 19 points per game and closed with 14.
"I thought Lydia McAlvain and Lily Couch did a great job on [Brice]," Qualls said.
Tahlequah overcame a 13-5 deficit in the first half and went on an 11-0 run to close out the second half and take a 28-18 lead.
"We got off to a slow start, missed a few layups and turned the ball over a little bit," Qualls said. "That was probably just us not playing well out of the break, but we settled down and toward the end of the first quarter and the rest of the first half we really flipped the game and did what we needed to do to win the game."
Coweta got as close as three points in the closing minutes, trimming the Lady Tigers' lead to 50-47, but senior guard Kacey Fishinghawk and junior guard Lily Couch combined on five free throws to close it out.
Junior Faith Springwater joined Rainwater in double figures with 10 points, seven of those coming in the opening quarter. Tatum Havens finished with eight points, Fishinghawk added seven, both Lydia McAlvain and Couch had four, and Naida Rodriguez closed with three.
The Lady Tigers will resume play at 4 p.m. Thursday when it faces Guthrie on the opening day of the Skiatook Invitational.
Tigers come up short in a career night for Hayden Smith: Hayden Smith scored a career-high 24 points, but it wasn't enough as No. 12 Tahlequah fell to 15th-ranked Coweta, 59-56, on the road Tuesday night.
Smith, who missed nearly two games after suffering an injury in the first quarter against Muskogee on Dec. 11, had 11 field goals and scored 16 of his points after halftime. Smith was coming off a previous career-high 20 points against Oklahoma City Storm on Dec. 10 in the Tahlequah Invitational.
The Tigers fall to 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the Metro Lakes Conference, while Coweta improves to 2-2 and 2-1.
Coweta, paced by Tye Lair's 22 points, led for nearly the entire contest, only trailing after the game's first field goal. Tahlequah got to within a point on two occasions during the fourth quarter after being down by as many as 10 points. Lair knocked down six 3-pointers, three of those coming in the third quarter.
Senior forward Hayden Wagers also finished in double figures for Tahlequah, ending with 12 points. Wagers scored 10 of his points during the second and third quarters. Qua'shon Leathers had six points, Trey Young and Walker Scott each had five, and Tyler Joice closed with four. It was Scott's debut in a Tahlequah uniform after transferring from Sequoyah.
Tahlequah will take on Tulsa Webster at 5:30 p.m. Thursday on day one of the Skiatook Invitational. The Tigers return home to face Collinsville in a 7:30 p.m. start Tuesday, Jan. 12.